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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Marble Faun - Volume II - Chapter XXXII - SCENES BY THE WAY
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The Marble Faun - Volume II - Chapter XXXII - SCENES BY THE WAY Post by :froogle-feeder Category :Long Stories Author :Nathaniel Hawthorne Date :April 2011 Read :3261

Click below to download : The Marble Faun - Volume II - Chapter XXXII - SCENES BY THE WAY (Format : PDF)

The Marble Faun - Volume II - Chapter XXXII - SCENES BY THE WAY

When it came to the point of quitting the reposeful life of Monte Beni,
the sculptor was not without regrets, and would willingly have
dreamed a little longer of the sweet paradise on earth that Hilda's
presence there might make. Nevertheless, amid all its repose, he had
begun to be sensible of a restless melancholy, to which the
cultivators of the ideal arts are more liable than sturdier men. On
his own part, therefore, and leaving Donatello out of the case, he
would have judged it well to go. He made parting visits to the
legendary dell, and to other delightful spots with which he had grown
familiar; he climbed the tower again, and saw a sunset and a moonrise
over the great valley; he drank, on the eve of his departure, one
flask, and then another, of the Monte Beni Sunshine, and stored up its
flavor in his memory as the standard of what is exquisite in wine.
These things accomplished, Kenyon was ready for the journey.

Donatello had not very easily been stirred out of the peculiar
sluggishness, which enthralls and bewitches melancholy people. He had
offered merely a passive resistance, however, not an active one, to
his friend's schemes; and when the appointed hour came, he yielded to
the impulse which Kenyon failed not to apply; and was started upon the
journey before he had made up his mind to undertake it. They wandered
forth at large, like two knights-errant, among the valleys, and the
mountains, and the old mountain towns of that picturesque and lovely
region. Save to keep the appointment with Miriam, a fortnight
thereafter, in the great square of Perugia, there was nothing more
definite in the sculptor's plan than that they should let themselves
be blown hither and thither like Winged seeds, that mount upon each
wandering breeze. Yet there was an idea of fatality implied in the
simile of the winged seeds which did not altogether suit Kenyon's
fancy; for, if you look closely into the matter, it will be seen that
whatever appears most vagrant, and utterly purposeless, turns out, in
the end, to have been impelled the most surely on a preordained and
unswerving track. Chance and change love to deal with men's settled
plans, not with their idle vagaries. If we desire unexpected and
unimaginable events, we should contrive an iron framework, such as we
fancy may compel the future to take one inevitable shape; then comes
in the unexpected, and shatters our design in fragments.

The travellers set forth on horseback, and purposed to perform much of
their aimless journeyings under the moon, and in the cool of the
morning or evening twilight; the midday sun, while summer had hardly
begun to trail its departing skirts over Tuscany, being still too
fervid to allow of noontide exposure.

For a while, they wandered in that same broad valley which Kenyon had
viewed with such delight from the Monte Beni tower. The sculptor soon
began to enjoy the idle activity of their new life, which the lapse of
a day or two sufficed to establish as a kind of system; it is so
natural for mankind to be nomadic, that a very little taste of that
primitive mode of existence subverts the settled habits of many
preceding years. Kenyon's cares, and whatever gloomy ideas before
possessed him, seemed to be left at Monte Beni, and were scarcely
remembered by the time that its gray tower grew undistinguishable on
the brown hillside. His perceptive faculties, which had found little
exercise of late, amid so thoughtful a way of life, became keen, and
kept his eyes busy with a hundred agreeable scenes.

He delighted in the picturesque bits of rustic character and manners,
so little of which ever comes upon the surface of our life at home.
There, for example, were the old women, tending pigs or sheep by the
wayside. As they followed the vagrant steps of their charge, these
venerable ladies kept spinning yarn with that elsewhere forgotten
contrivance, the distaff; and so wrinkled and stern looking were they,
that you might have taken them for the Parcae, spinning the threads of
human destiny. In contrast with their great-grandmothers were the
children, leading goats of shaggy beard, tied by the horns, and
letting them browse on branch and shrub. It is the fashion of Italy
to add the petty industry of age and childhood to the hum of human
toil. To the eyes of an observer from the Western world, it was a
strange spectacle to see sturdy, sunburnt creatures, in petticoats,
but otherwise manlike, toiling side by side with male laborers, in the
rudest work of the fields. These sturdy women (if as such we must
recognize them) wore the high-crowned, broad brimmed hat of Tuscan
straw, the customary female head-apparel; and, as every breeze blew
back its breadth of brim, the sunshine constantly added depth to the
brown glow of their cheeks. The elder sisterhood, however, set off
their witch-like ugliness to the worst advantage with black felt hats,
bequeathed them, one would fancy, by their long-buried husbands.

Another ordinary sight, as sylvan as the above and more agreeable, was
a girl, bearing on her back a huge bundle of green twigs and shrubs,
or grass, intermixed with scarlet poppies and blue flowers; the
verdant burden being sometimes of such size as to hide the bearer's
figure, and seem a self-moving mass of fragrant bloom and verdure.
Oftener, however, the bundle reached only halfway down the back of the
rustic nymph, leaving in sight her well-developed lower limbs, and the
crooked knife, hanging behind her, with which she had been reaping
this strange harvest sheaf. A pre-Raphaelite artist (he, for instance,
who painted so marvellously a wind-swept heap of autumnal leaves)
might find an admirable subject in one of these Tuscan girls, stepping
with a free, erect, and graceful carriage. The miscellaneous herbage
and tangled twigs and blossoms of her bundle, crowning her head (while
her ruddy, comely face looks out between the hanging side festoons
like a larger flower), would give the painter boundless scope for the
minute delineation which he loves.

Though mixed up with what was rude and earthlike, there was still a
remote, dreamlike, Arcadian charm, which is scarcely to be found in
the daily toil of other lands. Among the pleasant features of the
wayside were always the vines, clambering on fig-trees, or other
sturdy trunks; they wreathed themselves in huge and rich festoons from
one tree to another, suspending clusters of ripening grapes in the
interval between. Under such careless mode of culture, the luxuriant
vine is a lovelier spectacle than where it produces a more precious
liquor, and is therefore more artificially restrained and trimmed.
Nothing can be more picturesque than an old grapevine, with almost a
trunk of its own, clinging fast around its supporting tree. Nor does
the picture lack its moral. You might twist it to more than one grave
purpose, as you saw how the knotted, serpentine growth imprisoned
within its strong embrace the friend that had supported its tender
infancy; and how (as seemingly flexible natures are prone to do) it
converted the sturdier tree entirely to its own selfish ends,
extending its innumerable arms on every bough, and permitting hardly a
leaf to sprout except its own. It occurred to Kenyon, that the
enemies of the vine, in his native land, might here have seen an
emblem of the remorseless gripe, which the habit of vinous enjoyment
lays upon its victim, possessing him wholly, and letting him live no
life but such as it bestows.

The scene was not less characteristic when their path led the two
wanderers through some small, ancient town. There, besides the
peculiarities of present life, they saw tokens of the life that had
long ago been lived and flung aside. The little town, such as we see
in our mind's eye, would have its gate and its surrounding walls, so
ancient and massive that ages had not sufficed to crumble them away;
but in the lofty upper portion of the gateway, still standing over the
empty arch, where there was no longer a gate to shut, there would be a
dove-cote, and peaceful doves for the only warders. Pumpkins lay
ripening in the open chambers of the structure. Then, as for the town
wall, on the outside an orchard extends peacefully along its base,
full, not of apple-trees, but of those old humorists with gnarled
trunks and twisted boughs, the olives. Houses have been built upon
the ramparts, or burrowed out of their ponderous foundation. Even the
gray, martial towers, crowned with ruined turrets, have been converted
into rustic habitations, from the windows of which hang ears of Indian
corn. At a door, that has been broken through the massive stonework
where it was meant to be strongest, some contadini are winnowing grain.
Small windows, too, are pierced through the whole line of ancient
wall, so that it seems a row of dwellings with one continuous front,
built in a strange style of needless strength; but remnants of the old
battlements and machicolations are interspersed with the homely
chambers and earthen-tiled housetops; and all along its extent both
grapevines and running flower-shrubs are encouraged to clamber and
sport over the roughness of its decay.

Finally the long grass, intermixed with weeds and wild flowers, waves
on the uppermost height of the shattered rampart; and it is
exceedingly pleasant in the golden sunshine of the afternoon to behold
the warlike precinct so friendly in its old days, and so overgrown
with rural peace. In its guard rooms, its prison chambers, and
scooped out of its ponderous breadth, there are dwellings nowadays
where happy human lives are spent. Human parents and broods of
children nestle in them, even as the swallows nestle in the little
crevices along the broken summit of the wall.

Passing through the gateway of this same little town, challenged only
by those watchful sentinels, the pigeons, we find ourselves in a long,
narrow street, paved from side to side with flagstones, in the old
Roman fashion. Nothing can exceed the grim ugliness of the houses,
most of which are three or four stories high, stone built, gray,
dilapidated, or half-covered with plaster in patches, and contiguous
all along from end to end of the town. Nature, in the shape of tree,
shrub, or grassy sidewalk, is as much shut out from the one street of
the rustic village as from the heart of any swarming city. The dark
and half ruinous habitations, with their small windows, many of which
are drearily closed with wooden shutters, are but magnified hovels,
piled story upon story, and squalid with the grime that successive
ages have left behind them. It would be a hideous scene to
contemplate in a rainy day, or when no human life pervaded it. In the
summer noon, however, it possesses vivacity enough to keep itself
cheerful; for all the within-doors of the village then bubbles over
upon the flagstones, or looks out from the small windows, and from
here and there a balcony. Some of the populace are at the butcher's
shop; others are at the fountain, which gushes into a marble basin
that resembles an antique sarcophagus. A tailor is sewing before his
door with a young priest seated sociably beside him; a burly friar
goes by with an empty wine-barrel on his head; children are at play;
women, at their own doorsteps, mend clothes, embroider, weave hats of
Tuscan straw, or twirl the distaff. Many idlers, meanwhile, strolling
from one group to another, let the warm day slide by in the sweet,
interminable task of doing nothing.

From all these people there comes a babblement that seems quite
disproportioned to the number of tongues that make it. So many words
are not uttered in a New England village throughout the year--except
it be at a political canvass or town-meeting--as are spoken here, with
no especial purpose, in a single day. Neither so many words, nor so
much laughter; for people talk about nothing as if they were terribly
in earnest, and make merry at nothing as if it were the best of all
possible jokes. In so long a time as they have existed, and within
such narrow precincts, these little walled towns are brought into a
closeness of society that makes them but a larger household. All the
inhabitants are akin to each, and each to all; they assemble in the
street as their common saloon, and thus live and die in a familiarity
of intercourse, such as never can be known where a village is open at
either end, and all roundabout, and has ample room within itself.

Stuck up beside the door of one house, in this village street, is a
withered bough; and on a stone seat, just under the shadow of the
bough, sits a party of jolly drinkers, making proof of the new wine,
or quaffing the old, as their often-tried and comfortable friend.
Kenyon draws bridle here (for the bough, or bush, is a symbol of the
wine-shop at this day in Italy, as it was three hundred years ago in
England), and calls for a goblet of the deep, mild, purple juice, well
diluted with water from the fountain. The Sunshine of Monte Beni
would be welcome now. Meanwhile, Donatello has ridden onward, but
alights where a shrine, with a burning lamp before it, is built into
the wall of an inn stable. He kneels and crosses himself, and mutters
a brief prayer, without attracting notice from the passers-by, many of
whom are parenthetically devout in a similar fashion. By this time
the sculptor has drunk off his wine-and-water, and our two travellers
resume their way, emerging from the opposite gate of the village.

Before them, again, lies the broad valley, with a mist so thinly
scattered over it as to be perceptible only in the distance, and most
so in the nooks of the hills. Now that we have called it mist, it
seems a mistake not rather to have called it sunshine; the glory of so
much light being mingled with so little gloom, in the airy material of
that vapor. Be it mist or sunshine, it adds a touch of ideal beauty
to the scene, almost persuading the spectator that this valley and
those hills are visionary, because their visible atmosphere is so like
the substance of a dream.

Immediately about them, however, there were abundant tokens that the
country was not really the paradise it looked to be, at a casual
glance. Neither the wretched cottages nor the dreary farmhouses
seemed to partake of the prosperity, with which so kindly a climate,
and so fertile a portion of Mother Earth's bosom, should have filled
them, one and all. But possibly the peasant inhabitants do not exist
in so grimy a poverty, and in homes so comfortless, as a stranger,
with his native ideas of those matters, would be likely to imagine.
The Italians appear to possess none of that emulative pride which we
see in our New England villages, where every householder, according to
his taste and means, endeavors to make his homestead an ornament to
the grassy and elm-shadowed wayside. In Italy there are no neat
doorsteps and thresholds; no pleasant, vine-sheltered porches; none of
those grass-plots or smoothly shorn lawns, which hospitably invite the
imagination into the sweet domestic interiors of English life.
Everything, however sunny and luxuriant may be the scene around, is
especially disheartening in the immediate neighborhood of an Italian

An artist, it is true, might often thank his stars for those old
houses, so picturesquely timestained, and with the plaster falling in
blotches from the ancient brick-work. The prison-like, iron-barred
windows, and the wide arched, dismal entrance, admitting on one hand
to the stable, on the other to the kitchen, might impress him as far
better worth his pencil than the newly painted pine boxes, in
which--if he be an American--his countrymen live and thrive. But
there is reason to suspect that a people are waning to decay and ruin
the moment that their life becomes fascinating either in the poet's
imagination or the painter's eye.

As usual on Italian waysides, the wanderers passed great, black
crosses, hung with all the instruments of the sacred agony and passion:
there were the crown of thorns, the hammer and nails, the pincers,
the spear, the sponge; and perched over the whole, the cock that
crowed to St. Peter's remorseful conscience. Thus, while the fertile
scene showed the never-failing beneficence of the Creator towards man
in his transitory state, these symbols reminded each wayfarer of the
Saviour's infinitely greater love for him as an immortal spirit.
Beholding these consecrated stations, the idea seemed to strike
Donatello of converting the otherwise aimless journey into a
penitential pilgrimage. At each of them he alighted to kneel and kiss
the cross, and humbly press his forehead against its foot; and this so
invariably, that the sculptor soon learned to draw bridle of his own
accord. It may be, too, heretic as he was, that Kenyon likewise put
up a prayer, rendered more fervent by the symbols before his eyes, for
the peace of his friend's conscience and the pardon of the sin that so
oppressed him.

Not only at the crosses did Donatello kneel, but at each of the many
shrines, where the Blessed Virgin in fresco--faded with sunshine and
half washed out with showers--looked benignly at her worshipper; or
where she was represented in a wooden image, or a bas-relief of
plaster or marble, as accorded with the means of the devout person who
built, or restored from a mediaeval antiquity, these places of wayside
worship. They were everywhere: under arched niches, or in little
penthouses with a brick tiled roof just large enough to shelter them;
or perhaps in some bit of old Roman masonry, the founders of which had
died before the Advent; or in the wall of a country inn or farmhouse;
or at the midway point of a bridge; or in the shallow cavity of a
natural rock; or high upward in the deep cuts of the road. It
appeared to the sculptor that Donatello prayed the more earnestly and
the more hopefully at these shrines, because the mild face of the
Madonna promised him to intercede as a tender mother betwixt the poor
culprit and the awfulness of judgment.

It was beautiful to observe, indeed, how tender was the soul of man
and woman towards the Virgin mother, in recognition of the tenderness
which, as their faith taught them, she immortally cherishes towards
all human souls. In the wire-work screen 'before each shrine hung
offerings of roses, or whatever flower was sweetest and most
seasonable; some already wilted and withered, some fresh with that
very morning's dewdrops. Flowers there were, too, that, being
artificial, never bloomed on earth, nor would ever fade. The thought
occurred to Kenyon, that flower-pots with living plants might be set
within the niches, or even that rose-trees, and all kinds of flowering
shrubs, might be reared under the shrines, and taught to twine and
wreathe themselves around; so that the Virgin should dwell within a
bower of verdure, bloom, and fragrant freshness, symbolizing a homage
perpetually new. There are many things in the religious customs of
these people that seem good; many things, at least, that might be both
good and beautiful, if the soul of goodness and the sense of beauty
were as much alive in the Italians now as they must have been when
those customs were first imagined and adopted. But, instead of
blossoms on the shrub, or freshly gathered, with the dewdrops on their
leaves, their worship, nowadays, is best symbolized by the artificial

The sculptor fancied, moreover (but perhaps it was his heresy that
suggested the idea), that it would be of happy influence to place a
comfortable and shady seat beneath every wayside shrine. Then the
weary and sun-scorched traveller, while resting himself under her
protecting shadow, might thank the Virgin for her hospitality. Nor,
perchance, were he to regale himself, even in such a consecrated spot,
with the fragrance of a pipe, would it rise to heaven more offensively
than the smoke of priestly incense. We do ourselves wrong, and too
meanly estimate the Holiness above us, when we deem that any act or
enjoyment, good in itself, is not good to do religiously.

Whatever may be the iniquities of the papal system, it was a wise and
lovely sentiment that set up the frequent shrine and cross along the
roadside. No wayfarer, bent on whatever worldly errand, can fail to
be reminded, at every mile or two, that this is not the business which
most concerns him. The pleasure-seeker is silently admonished to look
heavenward for a joy infinitely greater than he now possesses. The
wretch in temptation beholds the cross, and is warned that, if he
yield, the Saviour's agony for his sake will have been endured in vain.
The stubborn criminal, whose heart has long been like a stone, feels
it throb anew with dread and hope; and our poor Donatello, as he went
kneeling from shrine to cross, and from cross to shrine, doubtless
found an efficacy in these symbols that helped him towards a higher

Whether the young Count of Monte Beni noticed the fact, or no, there
was more than one incident of their journey that led Kenyon to believe
that they were attended, or closely followed, or preceded, near at
hand, by some one who took an interest in their motions. As it were,
the step, the sweeping garment, the faintly heard breath, of an
invisible companion, was beside them, as they went on their way. It
was like a dream that had strayed out of their slumber, and was
haunting them in the daytime, when its shadowy substance could have
neither density nor outline, in the too obtrusive light. After sunset,
it grew a little more distinct.

"On the left of that last shrine," asked the sculptor, as they rode,
under the moon, "did you observe the figure of a woman kneeling, with
her, face hidden in her hands?"

"I never looked that way," replied Donatello. "I was saying my own
prayer. It was some penitent, perchance. May the Blessed Virgin be
the more gracious to the poor soul, because she is a woman."

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The Marble Faun - Volume II - Chapter XXXIII - PICTURED WINDOWS The Marble Faun - Volume II - Chapter XXXIII - PICTURED WINDOWS

The Marble Faun - Volume II - Chapter XXXIII - PICTURED WINDOWS
After wide wanderings through the valley, the two travellers directedtheir course towards its boundary of hills. Here, the natural sceneryand men's modifications of it immediately took a different aspect fromthat of the fertile and smiling plain. Not unfrequently there was aconvent on the hillside; or, on some insulated promontory, a minedcastle, once the den of a robber chieftain, who was accustomed to dashdown from his commanding height upon the road that wound below. Forages back, the old fortress had been flinging down its crumblingramparts, stone by stone, towards the grimy village at its foot.Their road wound onward among

The Marble Faun - Volume II - Chapter XXXI - THE MARBLE SALOON The Marble Faun - Volume II - Chapter XXXI - THE MARBLE SALOON

The Marble Faun - Volume II - Chapter XXXI - THE MARBLE SALOON
In an old Tuscan villa, a chapel ordinarily makes one among thenumerous apartments; though it often happens that the door ispermanently closed, the key lost, and the place left to itself, industy sanctity, like that chamber in man's heart where he hides hisreligious awe. This was very much the case with the chapel of MonteBeni. One rainy day, however, in his wanderings through the great,intricate house, Kenyon had unexpectedly found his way into it, andbeen impressed by its solemn aspect. The arched windows, high upwardin the wall, and darkened with dust and cobweb, threw down a dim lightthat